Tyler Cowen: The Free Market and Morality
Tyler Cowen is the Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University. He received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 1987. He is also the director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Many of his academic writings focus on the economics of the arts, the economics of celebrity, and the globalization of culture. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Slate.com, the Wilson Quarterly, Newsweek, and numerous other media outlets.
The blog he co-writes with Alex Tabarrok, www.marginalrevolution.com, was called one of the four best economics sites on the Web by the Wall Street Journal and the number one economics blog in the world by BlogPulse.com.
Tyler Cowen: Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University.
Question: Are human beings inherently good?
Tyler Cowen: Well, I think most people are basically selfish but they’re selfish in a way which is fairly reasonable. They want a good life for themselves and for their immediate family but they don’t want that life at the expense of having to be violent against other people or having to become an ogre, so that’s a mix of benevolence and selfish, and occasionally, people will do something truly wonderful or truly saintly, and that’s my core model of human nature. I don’t think people are depraved but they’re not always incredibly generous either. What markets do is they give people more resources, more resources to meet ends, most of those resources are used for selfish ends. We feed ourselves, we buy clothes for our family, we build homes. In my opinion, these are fundamentally healthy impulses and we cannot rule over the other fellow anyway. We don’t always know what’s good for other people.
So I think for the most part, markets and capitalists’ wealth help people become more of what they are, that’s something, in most cases, entirely acceptable. There are exceptions. There are people who are psychotics. And in a market economy, they can buy a gun, whereas back in the Stone Age, they only had a club and that make society worse. That’s a case where markets, I wouldn’t say they corrupted the psychotic, but they help a corrupted person be more destructive, but if you look at the world as a whole, do you see more production or do you see more destruction in market economies? I think it’s pretty clear what the answer is. You see a lot more production, you see a lot more cooperation, you see a lot more people striving after noble ends even if it’s just for their own happiness and the happiness of their families.
Question: How important is government regulation?
Tyler Cowen: Well, regulation is a very tricky word. I think obviously there’s a place for regulation in a free market, just enforcing contracts is regulation, stopping fraud. If I sell you a can of fish but it’s poisoned, regulation in the legal system should do something against that. But I think in today’s world, we’ve taken a lot of regulation too far.
There’s an enormous amount of micromanagement of transactions. Pick up a copy of the federal register, it’s about this thick everyday, it’s hundreds of pages of micromanage regulations often enforced by bureaucrats who are working from the outside. They don’t really understand what is best for transactions and they’re not doing as good a job at improving the quality of our lives as we could do ourselves.
Question: Did greed cause the financial crisis?
Tyler Cowen: I think some of the people in the financial sector were immoral and deeply immoral. There were people who sold packages of mortgages and knew they weren’t good. There were some people who borrowed money knowing that they could never repay it. But I think the majority of mistakes were genuinely honest mistakes.
People messed up, people self-deceived, people were weak or people just didn’t understand, but financial products are extremely tricky and sophisticated and it’s not the case that everyone out there was acting in a corrupt fashion. Most of the people who made these mistakes were good, honest people like you and I, you know, hope we are. And a lot of people have lost money probably including the two of us, but it doesn’t we’re somehow rotten or corrupt. So mostly it was a mistake and a failure to perceive that the world had somehow shifted and that it had become far riskier in a way we just weren’t understanding.
Question: What would you do if you were Treasury Secretary?
Tyler Cowen: If I were the Treasury Secretary right now, I would consider resigning in disgrace, because what Henry Paulson did was he told us, not many weeks ago, that it was necessary to purchase assets from banks at inflated prices and that if we didn’t do this essentially the world will come to an end. Paulson today held a press conference and he said, we don’t need to do this anymore, we’re going to spend that money in other places, we’re going to subsidize people using their credit cards, which in my opinion is crazy, spending more money is not what we need, we’re going to send some of that money to General Motors which I think is a lost cause at this point.
And in essence, the 1st half of the $700 billion that was approved, most of that money is going to be wasted, it was drummed up on the grounds of a scare tactic, some of it has been wisely spent recapitalizing banks, but most of it has been wasted or will be wasted. It’s being spent on [pork], it’s being spent on special interests, and we as voters were tricked, misled and lied to. And if you’re looking at what might be behavior of questionable morality, I would have to look, you know, square down the road at our federal government and ask have they’ve been honest and transparent with us during this financial crisis, and sadly it seems more and more everyday that the answer is no.
Question: Should we embrace globalization?
Tyler Cowen: If you go back and you look at world history, whenever good things have been happening, it’s generally been an era of globalization. Take the growth of the Roman empire, that was a kind of globalization of Europe. Take the rise of the Renaissance that was rebirth of cities, reopening of trade routes, the drawing of scientific ideas from China and the Islamic world, that was an era of globalization. Take the fantastic growth of prosperity and liberty in the 19th century or after World War II, again, you will find eras of globalization.
If you want to take a look at deglobalization, retrenchment, go to the Dark Ages, that’s what the opposite of globalization looks like, so I think we absolutely are at the point where we need to embrace globalization, the benefits are far greater than the costs and realize that it’s here to stay.
Recorded on: November 12, 2008
The George Mason economist answers the Big Question, "Does the free market corrode moral character?"
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The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>
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